This weekend I threw my very first big birthday party for our Baby Girl who just turned 5. As far as she knew she had not had a birthday party that she could remember. In fact, when she first came to us, she thought a "birthday" was a cake. She had little concept of a birthday party.
So I was bound and determined to let her have a fun shindig that she would remember!
But going to the local fast food joint and ordering a tray of chicken nuggets and a grocery store cake is out of the question for my family. There is something in my genetic make-up that feels like I just want to make everything myself anyways, so I set out a couple weeks ago to plan so I wouldn't get too overwhelmed the day of the party.
A few things that helped me do it:
- I used Velvet Aroma to store all the recipes I would need in a birthday cookbook so everything would be in one place. This made grocery shopping super-easy. (menu below)
- I did some make-ahead preparations. Most baked goods can be frozen for a few weeks with little taste compromised. They just need to be stored in an air-tight container or plastic freezer bags with most of the air removed. (see menu below for what I did ahead)
- Family! My mom came down for the week and helped me plan and cook. She along with my grandparents and MIL and FIL helped with a lot of the details- like picking up baloons, mopping my floor!, etc. Without them I could not have done all of this, for sure!
- I picked one thing that I wanted to highlight: the cake (shown below). And the rest I tried to keep simple.
- For all the non-edibles, I tried to keep decorations and activities down to a minimal effort for me since I knew that I would spend so much time on the food. So I relied on Hobby Lobby (a Michaels type store) because they have good prices and good sales. And a huge variety, from decor to serving pieces.
- Some Costco and Sams stores have good deals on the things I would normally not buy. But after all, a birthday party is a special celebration, right? I bought these Izze drinks (concentrated fruit juice and carbonated water) and this brand of juice boxes (which we rarely give the kids juice boxes, but these are a fruit and veg mix, and very low in naturally occurring sugars). I also splurged on some non-GMO, gluten-free, dairy-free, MSG-free potato chips as pictured above near the cake. My kids thought they were in heaven getting to eat as many chips as they wanted :) (I promise they get other kinds of treats in my home). These stores also have bulk fruit items that can be bought non-organic, like pineapple, already cut up or cored, saving time and not for much more money.
Here's the Menu for the Spread seen above:
- Make-ahead Meatballs from Food Renegade- These were super easy to make ahead and freeze, and I made them GF by using Udi's bread heels I had saved up for bread crumbs! It helped too that I had some deer meat from by awesome brother who graciously gave us several pounds of spicy deer sausage and regular burger meat.
- Organic Chicken Salad made using this egg-free recipe from Oh She Glows (originally for vegan chickpea salad- but worked really well with some freshly cooked chicken off the bone), with carrots and apples added in for extra umph.
- Buffalo Chickpea Dip from Gluten Free in the City- this was the hit of the party. Everyone raved over it and had no idea it was dairy-free :) It also could be mixed together in my blender in advanced and baked off right before the party.
- My Broccoli Mango Salad- I felt I needed a raw veggie side dish for some balance :)
- Fruit, mostly bought pre-prepped and cut
- Veggies for dipping
- Chips and a bowl of nuts
- And the coup de'gra, The Caramel Cake that I made with this recipe for chocolate swiss buttercream (which can be made a head a couple days and left at room temp). I will be posting the recipe later :)